There’s so much that I want to say about our trip so far, and I really have no idea where to start. This is only our second day in Kathmandu, and we’ve had one night in India, but I already feel as if I’ve experienced and learned an incredible amount. The flight was not nearly as bad as I expected from JFK to Delhi, except for the slight discomfort of the seats as Dr. Escoto mentioned in his post. The food was great (I had my first taste of Indian curry!) and they had several American movies available for viewing.
Delhi certainly was a culture shock. The heat alone was enough of a change from home (107 degrees), but then there was the added surprises of traffic (I sincerely feel lucky to be alive) and the hotel room. Looking out from the balcony at the end of our hall, all you could see was buildings with smashed windows and caved in walls. These buildings were people’s homes, and it was an extremely saddening view.
After the 12 hour flight from JFK to New Delhi, our trip to Kathmandu seemed to go extremely quickly. Coming in to the airport you could see the Himalayas peeking through the clouds, and that was what really hit it home for me that I was across the world, about to explore another country. The surreal feeling had finally passed and excitement, adrenaline, and awe replaced it. I was saying after our first day that I was running on so many bursts of adrenaline from all of the new sights, smells and experiences that I wasn’t sure if sleep would be possible.
We arrived at the Summit Hotel at around 10:00 am, and it was unbelievable how gorgeous it was. On the drive there (which was very similar to India), the surroundings were very New York-like and we were surprised by how Americanized everything seemed. The Summit Hotel, however, was a slice of Nepali heaven amongst the hustle and bustle of the city. I don’t exactly have the words to describe the things we saw throughout Kathmandu, because there was just so much to take in at once. Hopefully the pictures I took will do it justice.
After checking in to the hotel we decided to do a little shopping in Thamel, and that was an experience I’ll definitely never forget. Haggling was fun, though sometimes the shop owners were a little stubborn. Luckily we had a guide who knew how to talk down a price to next to nothing. That’s a skill I need to learn from him while I’m here! I was much to quick to be like, “200 rupees? OK I’ll take it!”. I ended up buying a gorgeous tapestry for 1500 rupees (about 20 American dollars), and a necklace for 35 rupees (about 45 American cents).
The one experience that resonated with me the most during my first day in Kathmandu (and this is still a little hard to talk about for me), was towards the end of our shopping when a little boy of about 5 holding a baby who couldn’t have been more than a couple months old, approached me begging for money. Looking at the boy’s dirty, pleading face and the baby’s thin body and glassy eyes, I couldn’t say no. I’m aware that giving money to beggars is frowned on by Nepali natives, but I didn’t have it in my heart to walk away. Our guide told me to give no more than 10 rupees (about 13 American cents), and after I handed it to the boy I was absolutely swarmed by other beggars with outreached hands. The hardest part was having to say no, and run before I could give in to the other children and mothers with babies. It was almost physically painful, and it wasn’t until I’d made it about a block away that I realized I was crying. I realize now why you shouldn’t give money to the people on the street. You can’t support them all, and it just isn’t fair to blatantly give money to one while ignoring all the others. It’s extremely hard to say no to their faces or just simply ignore their begging, but in the future if I want to donate money I will do it through an official organization.
The one other (most important) thing I want to mention was our welcome to Nepal from the faculty and students of Little Angels College. From the second we stepped out of the van onto campus we were treated like royalty! They handed out necklaces made of fragrant flowers and were all supplying us with huge smiles and greetings of “Namaste” at every turn. The hallways were lined with people clapping for us and bowing. It was absolutely incredible, and I felt extremely touched. I couldn’t keep a big goofy grin off my face and repeating “Namaste” to everyone who made eye contact with me. The welcoming ceremony with dance and musical numbers performed by school children were fun and exciting to watch, and it was really amazing how they went through all of that trouble to make sure we were entertained and comfortable. I feel as if I’m using the words “exciting” and “incredible” a lot, but there is really no other way to describe everything that Little Angels College has done for us setting up this trip and during our welcome today.
I’m sure there is so much else to share with you about what we’ve done and seen, but I would be here all night typing away! I’m taking an insane amount of pictures to try and capture every moment, and once I’m home and able to upload them I’ll make sure to post the best ones on here. That way you can all get a little taste of this amazing country, because my words certainly cannot do it justice. Because of the issues we’ve been having getting access to the internet, this may be the only opportunity I’ll have to post for the next couple days. So until next time, thanks for reading!